The County Council will have an opportunity today to clean up the mess of a shoreline bill approved last week by the planning committee.
Bill 2461 has far-reaching implications for Kauai's coastal lands. As written, it serves to facilitate coastal development and redevelopment, and could exempt an untold number of lots from a shoreline review. As one example, the nefarious vacation rental remodels exposed in the Abuse Chronicles would get a free pass. No shoreline certification would be required for repairs or cesspool relocations, cutting the public out of the process in an area that is known to be extremely problematic.
The planning committee passed the bill last week without having access to the complete document. The final draft bill, with its many amendments, was only compiled late last week, after the vote.
Hopefully they've all had a chance to read the thing and will take the time to deliberate the consequences of its language, including the “bright-line exemptions” proposed by developers. Even UH Seagrant has identified a few problems with that particular provision, and also submitted testimony clarifying that the maps it created don't represent all the properties that would be exempt from the "bright line" test.
In fact, no one really knows how many properties will be affected, since there is no GIS dataset that reflects the location of rocky shorelines as defined by the bill.
Unfortunately, Council Chair Jay Furfaro has been pushing to have all the work done in committee — the same poor strategy he employed in dealing with Bill 2491, the overturned pesticide/GMO regulatory law. But this is serious bill, with long lasting impacts, and it deserves the full Council's scrutiny.
The Council also seems too inclined to follow the advice of Chris Conger, the former Seagrant shoreline locator. However, they seem to be forgetting Chris' “no-history” strategy for setting shorelines was thrown out by the Hawaii Supreme Court. He may be an “expert,” but he's not always right. Plus now he's a consultant for developers, not a public servant.
In other land use issues, Luke Evslin and his father, Dr. Lee Evslin — a respected pediatrician who testified in support of Bill 2491 — recently took the time to visit the Dupont-Pioneer operation in Waimea. Luke, who believes biotech can co-exist with other agricultural practices on Kauai, was motivated, in part, by this quote from Howard G. Buffet:
The vast majority of farmers in the world farm because it is their only option. In many cases, it is a failing option. The global food ecosystem is complex; we need to develop a deeper understanding of where food comes from and what people who grow it have to endure.
Luke wrote a blog post about his visit that is well worth reading. Here's one excerpt:
So, what goes on behind the intimidating guard shack across the Russian Fort is less sinister and more mundane than I'd imagined. Farmers from around the world come to Pioneer with a request for certain traits: including adaptation to regional soil type and rain fall, disease resistance, plant architecture, time to maturity, pesticide resistance, etc. Breeders around the world will send kernels of plants with desirable traits to Kaua'i for the scientists here to plant, so that they can be pollinated for testing in other locations, to cross pollinate to test hybrid performance, or to add particular traits through breeding. They do it in Hawai'i because our extra growing season allows them to develop inbreds twice as fast as it would take in a temperate climate.
He also discounted a claim commonly uttered by Councilmen Tim Bynum and Gary Hooser and their followers: the seed companies spray pesticides more intensively and often than other farmers. Luke wrote:
Just to reiterate, because this part is important, the traits themselves are developed on the mainland. What they are doing on Kaua'i is merely growing out the inbreds in order to enable the breeders to eventually pick the best inbred parent to be crossed with another inbred to get a hybrid that will (hopefully) be good enough to sell to farmers. Because the development of the traits (including, for example, genetically modified herbicide resistance) is done on the mainland, the crops on Kaua'i are grown under the same conditions that they ultimately will be on the farm.
Each test plot is roughly 36 sq feet and contains about 25 plants, and pesticides are applied to each particular plot based only on need (i.e. an insect infestation). So, while the companies are spraying more than 250 days per year, the average application area is very, very small. Whereas, on a conventional farm, pesticide application occurs less often, but over a thousand-fold more area.
Luke goes on to write about other changes that are needed in our food system and asks some questions about barriers to agriculture on Kauai, which I will get into in another post.
In all, his piece was a thoughtful, intelligent assessment. And when he posted it on Facebook, he got some of the usual knee-jerk reactions from the anti-GMO crowd. Like this from Sol Kahn, who worked with Hooser to draft Bill 2491:
These companies use Kauai and other places as a TESTING site to see how much poison their crops can withstand without dying while killing lots of other animals and plants in the process disrupting our fragile ecosystem. That's what these companies do. Yes they also use hybrid techniques and others. Don't belive their lies Luke. These are not good companies. They create death and have a history of death. There's always a way and this is not the path.
They use fear to get minds to follow them. You're stronger than that. Release yourself from your analytical mind and follow your intuition. You have a strong gift Luke you'd be wise to use it.
Luke the chemical companies aka 'seed companies' are profit driven corporate stock holders. They don't care about helping people.
Funny, how the seed companies are the only “profit driven corporate stock holders” being singled out for attack — not the resort chains, or the rental car companies or the clothing companies that sponsor MMA fighters like mayoral hopeful Dustin Barca. And even funnier how Sol fails to recognize the fear-mongering strategy still used by the antis.
But my favorite came from the self-described “rabid reporter” Andy Parx, who last year was lauded by activists as “the voice” of the 2491 movement. His misinformed spiel — he admits he hasn't even read Luke's post — is a classic representation of the anti-GMO mindset:
I haven't gotten to read your piece yet Luke But Katie [Horgan's] and Sol's comments indicate you are buying the "big lies." Info from "Good Neighbor" is limited, completely untrustworthy and manipulated. And cross breeding and genetic manipulation are totally different things. It's a ridiculous argument designed to bamboozle people who can't tell the difference. I'll try to make time tomorrow.
You want to argue opinion. I don't. As a journalist I'm skeptical of anything presented as factual. What I've found if [sic] that what they are telling you is not factual. You're being sold a bill of goods by these guys. But since it lines up with your opinion you don't have the same kind of skepticism and so don't challenge it. As they say you're entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. That's the nice thing about science- it doesn't care what your opinion is.
Yes- I'm a tough audience. When I see slight of hand and illusionary magic I tend to tell the crowd where the smoke and mirrors are. It's easy to misunderstand this stuff without a basic understanding of genetics from Mendel to Crick and Watson to genome mapping. And it seems they are taking advantage of that to confuse people. Do you understand the basics of cross-breeding?
It's very frustrating trying to describe complicated scientific principles and history in a short sentence or two without using broad statements that are open to being misunderstood- especially when the multinational chemical companies are spending millions, intent on exploiting people's lack of expertise by using weasel words that have lay connotation and use outright misinformation to paint a picture that is false... even if it seems to "make sense." I'm almost sorry I happened to have studies [sic] this stuff in school because now I'm stuck trying to explain whole textbooks and lectures in a Facebook blurb "disputing the experts". Don't take my word for it- but at the same time don't take their word on it even more because their livelihood depends on imparting basically false impressions through specially designed PR campaigns That song "She Blinded me With Science" comes to mind...
Don't worry, Andy. We won't take your word for it. Not on this, or any other topic.
In looking at the comment thread that followed Luke's post on both his blog and Facebook, I felt heartened. Some people were asking sensible questions. Others were thanking Luke. This time last year, he would've been crucified and vilified — like the mayor, me and everybody else who dared to oppose the frothing fistees.
I see that as a very positive sign. Reason is slowly starting to return, and people are getting bolder about speaking up on this issue. We need to reclaim this debate from the ill-informed spewers, the fear-fanners, the ideologues who can't possibly entertain another train of thought, a different point of view.
Contrary to what some of our Councilmembers and their fistee followers like to pretend, this isn't an all-or-nothing, us-against-them game. They are the ones who drew up those rules. We don't have to play.